CT shows bilingual brains can battle Alzheimer's symptoms

Countless people have made mention of learning to speak a different language. Turns out, such an ability can mean more than improving oneself. It might just help fight Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study from the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explores the connection between bilingual individuals and symptoms of the neurodegenerative disease. Researchers from Italy’s Vita-Salute San Rafffaele University in Milan examined 85 individuals, 45 who spoke German and Italian and 40 who spoke only one language.

After studying CT scans of the individuals, Daniela Perani and colleagues found bilingual speakers scored an average of three to eight times higher, even though CT showed more severe deterioration in brain metabolism.

“It’s that idea of cognitive engagement—continuing to use it or you lose it,” said Heather Snyder, director of medical and scientific operations at the Alzheimer’s Association. “People who are bilingual and are going back and forth with two different languages throughout their day are activating a specific way of thinking that’s making those brain connections.”

Thought the sample size was small, the study highlights a potential need for further research into the link between cognitive activity and Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.

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